Book Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring

This was my pick for my book club (which has been MIA recently; hint hint nudge nudge Curlyhairedthinker and MyHappyCoincidence) for the month of October 2015. Yes I know it was super long ago and I have been neglecting posting my reviews. I will try to do my best memory wise in remembering what I read, however my review may be a bit shorter than usual.

Title: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Pages: 233 pages

Publisher: Plume/Penguin

Publishing Year: 1999

2015 Reading Challenge: A book that became a movie

The novel centres around the life of the Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, in Deft, Holland during the 1660s. The story was inspired by Vermeer’s actual painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been a fascination for many over the centuries. To this day, no one knows who the anonymous girl is in the painting. The author, Chevalier, creates a fictional account of Vermeer’s life based on what little is known, which is not very much. Vermeer is described as very mysterious and even to this day, the little that is known about his life can only be found in a few documents.

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Chevalier creates the character of Griet, who acts as the narrator for the novel and is employed as a servant in the Vermeer household. Vermeer eventually asks that Griet be his assistant and ultimately has her sit for him as a model in his studio. Griet is 16 years old when she first comes to the Vermeer household, and the novel is almost a coming of age story for her. How she begins to think of herself as pretty and discovers men.

He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.” ― Tracy Chevalier, Girl With A Pearl Earring

I give this book a 5 out of 5. One of the best books I read in 2015. All of my book club members thoroughly enjoyed the book, and we all would recommend it to others. I think it is a great book to read as a group and discuss.

I was completely invested in the book from start to finish. I wanted to know more about Griet and hear her story. I felt while reading it that Griet was real, even though we don’t know for sure that she is. I really connected with Griet’s character.

Compared to All the Light We Cannot See, which I just posted a review for, this grabbed me from the moment I picked it up. Its a short read, just over 200 pages, so you can finish it fairly quickly. But I didn’t feel the fact that the book was short lessened its impact in any way.

Whereas Anthony Doerr uses beautiful, haunting and sometimes (at least for me) confusing metaphors in his historical fiction, Tracy Chevalier’s language in Girl with a Pearl Earring is not as beautiful or maybe even as historically accurate as Doerr, but this book is much more simple to follow. If you are looking for something easy, light but also captivating and very interesting historically, this is definitely the read for you. And FYI you don’t have to be an art lover to enjoy it.

I did watch the movie before reading the book, which I am always a bit worried about because I find that once you watch the movie, the book just becomes boring to read, as you feel like you have done it all before. However I didn’t feel that way with this book. I think that the movie is different enough from the book that you can still experience something different reading the novel. The movie is worth a watch if you are interested, but I prefer the book.

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Also as a side note, Tracy Chevalier shares her insights into historical paintings in this Ted Talk. I would highly recommend that you give it a watch.

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